I used to be proud of a very popular post on my site about how easy it is to set up a Woo Commerce store. Now it makes me cringe because of how naïve I was when I wrote it. Today people who want an ecommerce site can be pretty naïve too. If you’re thinking about setting up an ecommerce site, keep reading to learn what I’ve found out since that first post. What I have to tell you will serve you well.
Note that Woo Commerce remains the best e-commerce solution for WordPress and powers over 40% of all online stores. It is easy to install and set up, but operating an ecommerce site is easy only for straightforward transactions. You will quickly run into complex issues around sales tax, shipping, credit card merchant accounts and security.
Once you have those things ironed out, don’t expect to relax. It’s not uncommon for ecommerce sites to have conversion rates of 1-2%. The median is 2.35%, and only the top 25% of accounts have more than 5.31. “Build it and they will come” worked for a mystical baseball field, but your ecommerce site is not a green patch in Iowa. You need a strategy that will generate decent revenue. You need my ABC approach to ecommerce success.
Arrange Your Ecommerce Website for Business
Build and Implement a Marketing Plan to Increase Traffic
Correct Your Sales Processes to Increase Your Conversion Rate
Take a close look at these steps before you undertake an Ecommerce for WordPress, and they will serve you well.[Tweet “Conversion rates of 1-2% are common. Here are tips to increase profits of your online store.”]
A. Arrange Your Ecommerce Website for Business
Before you spend a lot of money or effort bringing visitors to your site, make sure your site is ready for them. This is easier said than done.
If you’ve ever seen a reality show like Restaurant Impossible, you know how easily shocked we are that the owners can’t see why people avoid their restaurants. An unappealing name, poor design, uninspired menu, sketchy food and lackluster customer service—it’s a wonder any diners come in at all. Ecommerce sites are the same way.
When I do rapid fire website critiques at conferences, the audience can point out the obvious problems (confusing site name, poor design, no idea what they do…) that are going to interfere with the site’s commercial success. Of course, it is always easier to see on someone else’s site. To make your ecommerce website ready for business, follow these guidelines.
- Market Research: If there is no market for your product, you are wasting your time. Find out if your product is distinctive. If similar products are widely available, you need to sell on price and customer service. If yours is an exclusive product that appeals to certain buyers, reach them and make it easy for them to buy.
- Site Design: Your website must meet minimal quality standards. Less is often more. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a simple color palette, a clean open design, nice typography, good photography and a lot of white space.
- Site Performance: Make sure your site loads fast. Website visitors will not stick around to wait for a page to load and neither will Google. Your search ranking now may go down if your load time goes up.
- Messaging: Provide clear consistent messaging on your home page about who you are, what you are selling and why people should buy. Show and tell your product’s story.
- Building Trust: Just like a brick and mortar store, your ecommerce site success depends on customer trust. You need to take care that people feel like you are the real deal and they can be secure shopping with you. In most cases it is best for your site not to be too flashy or unusual. People want a site they understand. They want to be able to easily find what they are looking for. You can build some more trust with a company and or owners’ about page. Guarantees, reviews and a few testimonials go a long way with helping people feel comfortable. And people want to see that your ecommerce site is secure has an SSL certificate and that your url begins with https.
- Product Descriptions that Sell. Remember how the J. Peterman catalog made you want to have that trench coat that looked like it was straight out of Casablanca by the story they told? Use your own words to tell the story of each of your items and focus on the benefits to your customer rather than just the facts. Do not under any circumstances copy text from the manufacturer. You lose your personal touch and Google search results will penalize you for duplicate content.
- Photographs that Dazzle. Display images that inspire customers to feel confident about making a purchase. Don’t skimp on image size. Provide views with enough detail to inform a purchase decision. Can’t afford a professional photographer? Then become an expert yourself. There are plenty of online tutorials about equipment and techniques to produce photos that show your goods in the best light.
- Email Opt-in: Some people won’t be ready to buy immediately from your site, so you’ll want an email opt-in box to ensure you get permission to add a visitor to your mailing list so you can contact them. By submitting their names and email addresses, they expect you to nurture them. Communicate about your business until they are ready to buy. Consider rewarding visitors who have not yet made a purchase. Offer a discount coupon or an e-book related to your product in exchange for signing up for your list, where they will customers who are added automatically.
B. Build and Implement a Marketing Plan to Increase Traffic
A presentable site needs traffic. If you don’t have enough, any kind of testing to improve conversion rate will be useless. The sample will be too small to be significant, so let’s make sure you have enough visitors. This is where you build and implement a marketing plan to increase traffic.
- Set up Google Analytics. This tool tracks your website traffic, reveals the results of your marketing efforts and helps you plan future marketing decisions. Google Analytics will identify who your visitors are, where they are coming from, how effective your marketing efforts are and help you optimize your store for better conversions. For instance, Google Analytics will track conversion rates from your customers based on what brought them to your site (organic searches, Facebook ads or particular landing pages from marketing campaigns). This data can help you target future marketing to get the best bang for the buck. To track a sale from referral source to purchase, you will need to set up Google Analytics for eCommerce, which takes a bit of work.
- Optimize Your Pages, Posts and Products for Relevant Search Terms, The Yoast SEO plugin will optimize your contentfor Google search terms you select. Determine one term per page or post, and you will see more organic traffic to your website.
- Complete Your Google Local Business Listing: If you also have a brick and mortar location, boost your business online rankings by setting up a Google Local Business Account completely with accurate information, images and reviews. Make the name and address of your business consistent on each web page.
- Build Your Mailing List through Consistent, Warm Communication.One of your most valuable marketing resources is your mailing list, so find ways to increase the number of its subscribers. People like to receive valuable information, so communicate with them on a regular basis. Develop email campaigns where new subscribers get a series of messages dripped out over time after signing up. Consider creating newsletters with valuable tips, alerts and trends. Make these messages relational and engaging. Talk to your people so they look forward to hearing from you, feel connected and become loyal fans. Warm, personal communication to someone’s inbox can develop trusting long-term relationships with your customers. Email marketing can be the most valuable, least expensive marketing you can do.
- Blog Like the Expert that You Are. Writing interesting, amusing and/or helpful blog posts will give your prospects a chance to know you and your products better. Done right, blog posts will show you to be an expert and create goodwill that can be shared across social media sites and email newsletters. Each day one of my clients wrote a post on her ecommerce website blog and then added an update about it to Facebook, they saw their website traffic triple.
- Update Social Media.This is how people will find out about you, so yes, you do have to have a presence and engagement on social media. Choose the channels that your target market is likely to use and develop a strategy on those sites to post content and interact with your customers so they will visit your ecommerce site. Get the word out on LinkedIn, post to Instagram and use relevant hashtags, have a Facebook Page for your business. You don’t have to do everything and be everywhere but you should work it daily.
- Use Facebook Ads and Remarketing. Facebook has some powerful ways for you to direct ads. You can upload your email list and Facebook will direct your ad to a wider audience with the same affinities. Facebook also has a tool called Website Custom Audiences, or WCA, that allows you to direct ads to people who have visited your site or visited some portion or page on your site. To learn more, check out Jon Loomer’s good overview of using Facebook remarketing technology to increase sales.
If you work your marketing plan on a consistent basis, you will see more traffic and more sales. Now you are positioned for the next step in ecommerce success.
C. Correct Your Sales Processes to Increase Conversion Rates
Once you have some traffic to work with, you can tweak your site and business processes to maximize the percentage of visitors who stick around and buy from you. During this stage be vigilant about using analytics to track your results.
- Shipping:Decisions, decisions. Should you offer free shipping? Research has shown that a majority of people would be more likely to buy if offered free shipping. Many online shops have realized huge conversion increases immediately after changing to a free shipping model. Shoppers are less likely to experience sticker shock from sky-high shipping costs and abandon their carts. If you are offering free shipping, will you raise the product price to cover shipping? Will it come from your profit margin? Or will you split the difference? You will need to weigh these to decide what is best for your site.
- Up-sell and cross-sell offers: When a person adds products to the cart, you can offer them an up-sale item that attracts them to spend more (up-sell) or you can offer an item that they might need to go along with their purchase (cross-sell). Statistics show that up-selling drives more than 4% of sales and cross-selling on checkout pages will drive another 3%. Every little bit counts, so why not?
- Cart Abandonment: Did you know that 68% of people who add items to an online cart don’t complete the sale? Cart abandonment happens for many reasons. They might have felt the final price was too high; they might have had a problem with the checkout process; their computer or your site might have been slow to load; they may not have had their credit card handy; they got distracted before completing the sale or the shipping was too high. If you collect an email address when they add products to their cart, you have a chance to still sell these items to the shopper by using an abandoned cart message. Woo Commerce clients can use Abandoned Cart Pro from Tyche Softwares to send out one or a series of automated follow-up emails after a cart is abandoned. Put on your best customer service hat and craft a message that asks what happened. Offering them a discount to complete the sale has been shown to be very effective at getting them to come back.
- User Testing: To guide better marketing, you can’t beat a video of someone in your target audience trying to use your ecommerce site. Features, fonts and widgets you think are cute may be irritating distractions. The process you are sure is crystal clear can stop the tester in his or her tracks. If only you knew these things, you would fix them! Get this data from a company called User Testing. User Testing allows you to specify the type of people you would like to evaluate your site. You also provide a series of tasks and questions for the testers to address in their feedback. You receive a recording of the tester’s experience as he or she attempts the tasks you have set. Use peek.usertesting.com for a quick, free example of this eye-opening process.
- Split Testing:After pinpointing areas that need improvement, fix the easy things first. To further boost conversion rates, split test. For example, to improve your checkout page, you would create two versions of the page and run an A/B split test to determine which page gets the best results. This article by Conversion Rate Experts lists 108 things you can test to increase your website’s profits.Many software programs let you set up and carry out these simultaneous tests over a couple of weeks. You can do free split-testing with Google Analytics using Content Experiments. Landing page software such as Lead Pages or InstaPage includes A/B formatting to test landing page performance. For elements on other pages, Optimizely offers a free starter plan that is perfect for those new to testing.
Whew! Now that you know what is involved in having a successful ecommerce site you can decide if you are cut out for it. It is not as easy as I once made it seem. But after reading this far, you aren’t as naïve as I once was. If you go forth now, you are armed to create and work a site that will rocket past your competition and make you a pot of money.
As always, if you have any questions or comments about this ecommerce strategy that I outlined, or other questions about web marketing, go for it. Ask away in the comment section of this post.